As an award-winning director and writer, the co-founder of two non-profits, and the principal of two nationally recognized arts high schools, John Lawler brings a wealth of experience to the world of arts education. He has been a professional artist for over 30 years, and an educator for the last 20 years, first as a university guest artist and teacher, then as the founder and principal of an innovative visual and performing arts high school, ArTES Magnet (Art Theatre Entertainment School), and now as the principal of the world-renowned LACHSA.
Mr. Lawler has enjoyed a very successful career as an award-winning director and writer, with stage, opera, and film projects in New York, Los Angeles, London, and Munich to name a few. He is a co-founder and former director of Annex Theatre in Seattle, an award-winning regional theatre now celebrating its 30th year, and has been a frequent guest director at Sundance, the Eugene O’Neill Center, and the Williamstown Theatre Festival. As a director, Mr. Lawler developed plays with Luis Alfaro (Macarthur Genius recipient), David Lindsay-Abaire (Pulitzer Prize winner “Rabbit Hole”), JT Rogers (Tony winner for Best Play – “Oslo”) and many award-winning actors including Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti. As a film and television writer, he developed scripts for Sony Pictures, Disney, and NBC, and won multiple awards, including two first-place prizes at the Austin Film Festival.
As an educator, Mr. Lawler first taught at the Eugene O’Neill Center’s National Theatre Institute and the Williamstown Theatre Festival acting programs, among others. Ultimately, he found working with underrepresented and underserved populations much more rewarding. After 11 years as a theatre arts and film educator, he wrote a proposal and was approved to open an innovative, art themed high school in LAUSD, one of a small number of autonomous “Pilot” schools. ArTES has nurtured close partnerships with many arts organizations, especially California Institute of the Arts (“CalArts”), with whom they work closely to embed trained teaching artists in core classes to develop and deliver arts integrated lessons, as well as programming performances in the community. Though the school primarily served students from economically disadvantaged neighborhoods, ArTES went on to have a 96% graduation rate in 2017, and outperforms LAUSD schools in nearly all metrics.
Under Mr. Lawler’s leadership, ArTES was the recipient of multiple prestigious honors, including the California Department of Education Gold Ribbon Schools Award, the Title I Academic Achievement Award, and the Arts Schools Network’s “New and Emerging School” award in 2015, which recognizes an “emerging school of excellence.” In 2016, ArTES was recognized as an ASN “Exemplary School.” Also in 2016, Mr. Lawler was honored to receive the Denise Davis Cotton Award for Arts Leadership, and to be named LAUSD’s “Administrator of the Year”, in a district of 650,000 students.
Much of Mr. Lawler’s work at ArTES was an effort to build a collaborative and distributed leadership culture with the staff, and his expertise in Adaptive Leadership strategies and Cognitive Coaching promote a non-evaluative, supportive path to program and instructional improvements. He was certified at Harvard University in the implementation of Instructional Rounds, a continuing cycle of observation, learning from colleagues, reflection, and improvement. He approaches stakeholders’ concerns first as a listener, then as a partner to seek a way forward that results in personal and professional growth. Under Mr. Lawler’s leadership, ArTES was known for its atmosphere of cooperative learning and shared inquiry.
Constantly seeking innovative ways foster a deeper connection to the arts for underserved communities, Mr. Lawler was instrumental in launching the Arts Consortium, a non-profit organization that capitalized on the power of the arts as an accelerator for change. He served as a vice president of the Board of Directors, sitting alongside the leaders of the California Institute of the Arts, the Los Angeles Music Center, and the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, among others. One of their first programs was to locate, catalogue, display, and create instructional content around LAUSD’s vast and valuable art collection. Some of Arts Consortium’s legacy can be seen in the website Artscape, which features the LAUSD collection, student work, and instructional guides for teachers.
Mr. Lawler is thrilled to become a part of the LACHSA family, and sees his role as one of providing support, guidance, and distributive leadership with faculty, students, and parents.